Things to do in Batam
Before you strike off Batam as a been-there-done-that, we’ve found a list of hidden gems to explore so you can re-discover it for its beauty. An exciting waterpark and IG-worthy cafes have sprung up with the city evolving much over the last decade.
In the midst of Batam's development are under-appreciated beaches, each defined by their own charm. We often veered off the main road and we suggest hiring a driver for the day. If you find yourself needing a last-minute change of destination, bookmark this list for back up.
Plus, there's an ongoing promotion by Tourism Indonesia that offers 2-way trips to Batam from Singapore from S$20 or S$45 (including 1-night accommodation).
1. Visit the BIGGEST inflatable water theme park near Singapore
Playgrounds bring out the child in me with slides and swings, but an inflatable playground water sports park takes the fun to the next level. At SeaForest Adventure, there’s a basic entry fee for adults (35,000 Rp, ~S$3.50) and children (25,000 Rp, ~S$2.50), plus a top up for each activity based on duration.
We bought tickets to Aqua Adventure Track for 60 min (120 000 Rp, ~S$12). There were lockers and clean toilets with shower stalls beside the counter. I quickly changed, slapped on sunblock, and went out to the beach to grab a life vest.
The entire park is as big as a basketball court and included swings, wall climbing, monkey bars, big slides, free falling, and even a three-metre wide trampoline. I was eager to run to the trampoline in the centre but the slippery playground had us shrieking in laughter whenever we fell.
There were assistants who watched over us and helped us back up each time, so although I can’t swim, I wasn’t super scared. This playground kept us busy all afternoon so you’ll want to sink into the beanbags on deck for a break now and then. There’s a Floating Snack Bar in the middle of the park and a tent at the shore with a small stall for refreshments.
PS you can bring your own bottles of water to quench your thirst. It's much cheaper and there weren't any restrictions when we visited.
Address: Jalan Hang Lekiu, Sambau, Nongsa Batam 29465 Kepulaluan Riau Indonesia
Opening hours: Daily 9am to 5pm
Telephone: +62 812 8513 3985
Getting there: After reaching Sea Forest Adventure, get to the water park by boat (5 minutes), by buggy (10 minutes), or walk up a hill on the right side of the beach (15 minutes)
Basic entry fees: Adult 35,000 Rp, ~S$3.50 | Child (from five to twelve years old) 25,000 Rp, ~S$2.50
Aqua Adventure Track Fee: 30 mins (75 000 Rp, ~S$7.50), 60 mins (120 000 Rp, ~S$12), and 120 mins (175 000 Rp, ~S$17.50)
2. Swing in the sea or stand on heart-shaped planks at Pantai Viovio
For an epic backdrop shot, swing in the sea at Pantai Viovio. The tide was high when I waded about ten metres past the shoreline till the waters reached my knees. There's another swing not too far off with a pair of seats, as well as a makeshift stage if you want to wait for the sunset with friends.
The beach is bound by mangrove trees and small islands dot the coast with ships sailing across in the distance. The expanse of soft wide sand was dotted with gazebos available for rent at 150,000 Rp (~S$15) per day.
Pantai Viovio is 800m of unpaved road after passing Barelang Bridge 5 which resembles the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco. There were clear signposts and an entry fee of 10,000 Rp (~S$1).
My favourite part about Viovio was at the top of a slope before reaching the beach. Wooden planks in the shape of ‘I ♥ you’ were supported on stilts quite a height from the ground. It thrilled me to look over the canopies and the distant beach from the edge of it.
Down at the beach is another a photo area you can enter for 5,000 Rp (~S$0.50) per person. The deck was decorated with hanging umbrellas overhead and led to a fork ending with heart shapes.
Not too far away is Red Krapu Seafood, the only place in the area with food and toilets. They sell snacks, mains, seafood, as well as toiletries and charge 5,000 Rp (~S$0.50) for shower facilities and 3,000 Rp (~S$0.30) for toilet facilities.
Address: Sijantung, Galang, Batam City, Riau Islands 29485, Indonesia
Opening hours: Daily 6am to 7pm
Entry fee: 10,000 Rp, ~S$1
Red Krapu Seafood
Operating hours: Mon-Fri 8am to 5pm, Sat-Sun 8am to 9pm
3. Take a treetop selfie over a cliffside beach at Taman Wisata Habibie 1000 Tangga
Taman Wisata Habibi 1000 Tangga (5,000 Rp, ~S$0.50 per person) literally means “a thousand steps” because of the sheer number of stairs there that lead to scenic spots in the garden park. Not far from Dangas Sekupang Beach, it gets its namesake from BJ Habibie, Indonesia's third president, who used to live here.
We dropped off at Area Sunset just before the evening set in, and found many small groups resting on seats in the shade, looking to the horizon.
I walked up to a rustic treehouse (2,000 Rp, ~S$0.20 per person), from where I could see the Singapore's skyscrapers, excited to spot Marina Bay Sands. I had to have a treehouse selfie to mark the memory, and a shot of a panoramic view of the beach. Lush greenery dominated the place, and the treehouse had a charming view of the sunset that gave me Tarzan and Moana vibes.
At around 6pm, we followed a trail down a flight of stairs to the shore where the trees and silhouettes of men on sampans outlined the sky. It’s a romantic spot to take in the serenity with the shores gently breaking gently at our feet. There's a small offshore island, Pulau Putra, which you can get to by boat (10,000 Rp, ~S$1 per person).
There are plans for more tree houses to be built here, so keep a lookout for them in 2018 and beyond.
Address: Tanjung Pinggir, Sekupang, Batam City, Riau Islands, Indonesia
Opening hours: Daily 24/7
Getting there: After the main Sekupang intersection, look out for traffic lights by the tri junctions at Sekupang Government Complex. Take a right turn if you come from Batu Aji.
Entry fees: 5,000 Rp, ~S$0.50 per person to enter park | 2,000 Rp, ~S$0.20 for treehouse
Parking fees: 2,000 Rp , ~S$0.20 for motorbikes | 5,000 Rp , ~S$0.50 for cars
4. Cafe hop to find uber adorable cafes like a teddy bear cafe
If you’re an avid cafe-hopper who’s captured most of Singapore’s cafes on your IG, visit Lee’s Cafe & Bar at downtown Lubbock. Cuddly bears decorate their seats and shelves, and we posed for photos with a couple of teddies that were larger than even myself. There was Brown from Line and Tobby who are both 1.8m tall and have been living at Lee’s since it opened.
Lee’s expanded since opening in November 2016. Both their indoor cafe and adjacent outdoor bar now have a second story, which can be booked for parties, bridal showers, and company meetings. The four sections are decorated distinctly, each with a eclectic mix of vintage and modern furniture and toys.
Lee’s also a popular hangout to watch soccer matches over booze. There’s a wide menu of hearty mains with Western, Nyonya, and Indonesian cuisine. It was quiet on a weekday night, but we’re told Lee’s is especially crowded on Friday nights and weekends. They’re planning to introduce a live band too.
Cheese Lava (38,000 Rp, ~S$3.80) is one of their new desserts. A yellow lava cake is served with powdered sugar and a separate scoop of ice-cream that’s decorated with chocolate sauce and chocolate chips. Tearing open the cake let flow a thick yellow stream of cheese that was savoury and satisfying.
Address: Batu Selicin, Lubuk Baja, Batam City, Riau Islands 29444, Indonesia
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10am to 1am, Sun 10am to 12am
Telephone: +62 778 4085 111
5. Stop for a picnic party in a gazebo at Pantai Setokok
One beach south of Batam is Pantai Setokok (5,000 Rp, ~S$0.50 per person), not far off from Barelang Bridge 3. From the carpark I could already see a long line of wooden gazebos (30,000 Rp, ~S$3 per rental) with blue roofs that stretched across the shore. Each was big enough for a party of seven to eight and slightly raised above ground in case of high tide.
There are banana boats, canoes, a volleyball court, and bathroom facilities too.
According to the locals, when the tides recede, sand mounds will appear in the sea, making romantic little "islands" where you can take in the sunset with your partner. Unfortunately for us, it was high tide when we visited so the sight would have to wait for our next visit.
You can also stroll to the two swings that are in the sea where children can play with the water safely. It’s easy to find aesthetic areas for photos in the calming and panoramic beach.
Although there are food stalls at the beach, they’re usually closed on weekdays. Get nosh along the way from SP (Sentosa Prime) Plaza, is a two-storey mall district nearby that combines wet markets, food stalls, retail shops, and offices.
We also stopped by Cake Buah Naga Aroma after that for their dragon fruit snacks, like cakes and pink-coloured chips, which were spotted with black seeds. Dragon fruit is the only fruit that can grow on the abundant red soil in Indonesia and there are dragon fruit farms you can explore.
Some allow visitors to pluck the fruits while others sell dragon fruit soup, juices, and sticks you can try.
Address: Pantai Setokok, Pulau Setokok, Bulang, Kota Batam, Kepulauan Riau 29475, Indonesia
Getting there: Right turn at an intersection at Barelang Bridge 3 and drive down a paved road for 2km
Entry fee: 10,000 Rp, ~S$0.50 per person
Parking fee: 5,000 Rp, ~S$0.50 per person
Cake Buah Naga Aroma
Address: Tiban Centre, Jl. Gajah Mada, Tiban Indah, Sekupang, Kota Batam, Kepulauan Riau 29424, Indonesia
Telephone: +62 813 7200 2004
6. Sail off the main island and visit a kampung beach in Pulau Tunjuk
We rose early for Pulau Tunjuk, one of Batam city’s surrounding islands, because we needed to catch the high tide at about 9am for an hour-long boat ride. We dropped off from our car at Kerambah, were there was a cluster of kelongs that’s rather unexposed to tourists.
The village folk went about their daily lives as freshly-bathed children with faces covered in white powder hid behind their parents. We walked on a long deck as wide as four to five planks before reaching a boat service (300,000 Rp, ~S$30). The boatman wound the motor which gave off a few loud bangs before we set sail.
Sitting at the tip in front gave the best view of the distant strips of land and cotton-like clouds. The wind currents changed subtly between warm and cool and the waves caught the sunlight like crystals.
Pulau Tunjuk is a kampung detached from urbanisation with thatched-roof houses, uncaged chickens pecking on coconuts husks, and a few meowing cats that followed us. Near the jetty is the only snack bar and toilet, and there were a couple of hammocks made from fishing nets where we rested to the sound of lapping waves.
I filled my pockets with seashells and popped seagrapes as we walked down the beach under the shade of coconut trees. The tip of the island ended in a bend where we made a 360° video as a boatman sailed by on a sampan in the distance.
Address: Pulau Tunjuk, Subangmas, Kota Batam, Kepulauan Riau, Indonesia
Getting there: Boat ride from Kerambah
Fees: 300,000 Rp, ~S$30 for boat
Keramba Dan Rumah Makan Seafood Pak Ucu
Address: Rempang Cate Kec. Galang Kota Batam
Telephone: 0852 7253 5455 or 0812 7546 7141
Things to eat in Batam
7. Feast at A2 Food Court like it's Newton Circus Food Centre
Whether you’re looking for local flavours or missing Singapore food, A2 Food Court has over 30 cooked food stalls and a wet market. It’s an unsheltered hawker centre just beside Batam City Square (BCS) Mall, surrounded by food court stores, street stalls, and little kiosks. As the dinner crowd streamed in, most tables were taken by locals, making it hard to find empty seats.
Most stalls are halal-certified and I could easily spot Singaporean influences with food like chicken rice, frog porridge, and sio bak (roast pork). We tried seafood like He Po Telur Asin (Salted Egg Crayfish | 80,000 Rp ~S$8), and unique dishes like Siput Cabe Rawit (Chili Padi Snails | 55,000 Rp, ~S$5.50).
Lele Goreng (18,000 Rp, ~S$1.80) was interesting with a whole fried catfish served with fried tofu, crispy fried bits, chicken sausages, and half a lime. Tearing into the catfish revealed its many fine bones, and bites of its seasoned flesh were moist. A chilli dip made with shrimp paste and finely chopped jalapenos was served on the side and I enjoyed its fiery flavour with the tofu.
Address: Jl. Bunga Mawar, Batu Selicin, Lubuk Baja, Kota Batam, Kepulauan Riau 29444, Indonesia
Opening hours: Daily 24/7, but advised to go after 4pm
8. Get roadside martabak for snacks and dessert
Martabak is an Indonesian pancake that’s street food indulgence you can’t miss whether you like your treats sweet or savoury. Its reminds me of min jiang kueh but tastes nothing like it. We stopped by a Martabak 818 outlet, a kopitiam stall, and asked for a martabak with half cheese, half chocolate and peanuts (39,000 Rp, ~S$3.90).
Martabak is made to order and once the green batter was taken off the griddle, a stick of butter was slathered on. The warm pandan base quickly made it smooth to spread like cream. Cheese was grated over half of it and chocolate rice was generously thrown onto the other.
A mix of coarse and fine peanut was added onto the chocolate half before the entire pancake was thickly drizzled in condensed milk. It was folded in half before its toasty top was spread with a thin layer of butter.
The brown crust broke crisply as my teeth sank into the sweet pillowy pancake. The cheese melted into it with delicious saltiness. I’m not much of a sweet tooth but this balance of flavours was bomb.
Their menu has a wide variety of flavour combos with a choice of Blue Brand or the more pricey Golden Churn Butter. The most basic is kacang (peanut) with Blue Brand butter (27,000 Rp, ~S$2.70) to green tea + Toblerone + keju (cheese) (145,000 Rp, ~S$14.50). Whichever choice you go with, Martabak now ranks top on my list of Indonesian favourites.
Address: Batu Selicin, Lubuk Baja, Batam City, Riau Islands 29444, Indonesia
Opening hours: Daily 3pm to 10:30pm
Telephone: +62 813 6458 7766
9. Grab multicolored beers at Batam's only microbrewery, Batam Fresh Beer
Word of coloured beers in green, black, brown, and yellow hues got us on the hunt for Batam Fresh Beer, the only microbrewery on the island. A pint of any beer goes for 15,000 Rp (~S$1.50) and we had a tasting portion of their five house-made flavours. From left to right are Original, Passion fruit, Seaweed, Original and Black combined, and Black. The first three have 5% alc and the other two had 8%.
The beers were smooth and not very bitter. Seaweed was the unanimous favourite, while Original was next best. The restaurant brews their beers on the second floor, using imported German wheat, and connects them to water pipes to fill their beer barrels downstairs.
Batam Fresh Beer's food menu is exotic, including dishes like crocodile and bat meat, as well as fried snake.
Address: Teluk Tering, Batam City, Riau Islands 29444, Indonesia
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 12pm to 2am, Sun 12pm to 12am
Telephone: +62 778 469442
10. Order a table full of simple local delights at Mie Tarempa Sungai Panas
Our rumbling tummies had us at Mie Tarempa Sungai Panas, a popular "kopitiam" selling local delights ranging from snacks to rice and noodle mains. We ordered some casual dishes but I thoroughly enjoyed most of our lunch which has since left me badly missing Indonesian food.
We ordered a spread to share, tasting dishes like their Sate Tarempa (2,000 Rp, ~S$0.20) which was chicken satay with a fine peanut sauce, and Gado Gado (16,000 Rp, ~S$1.60) which was deeply flavourful.
Luti Gendang (3,000 Rp, ~S$0.30) was delicious to snack on with deep-fried buns with a centre filled with fish floss. Having it warm was like biting into a fried man tou that was soft and bready with a dry and savoury core. I washed it down with the most gao (thick) Milo Susu Peng (8,000 Rp, ~S$0.80) I’ve ever tried, which was like a liquified Milo Dinosaur.
Their Mie Goreng Sapi (18,000 Rp, ~S$1.80) was a simple dish of yellow flat noodles stir-fried with spicy seasoning, beef slices, and beef stomach, garnished with crispy bits. I easily pulled up mouthfuls of noodles that were so savoury they were already delicious on their own.
Address: Komp. Graha mas Blok J No. 10-11, Sei Panas, Sungai Panas, Batam Kota, Sungai Panas, Batam Kota, Kota Batam, Kepulauan Riau 29433, Indonesia
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 7am to 6pm, Sun 7am to 3pm
Telephone: +62 811 7776 800
A mini holiday escape to Batam
There are so many more undiscovered spots in Batam unsaturated by tourism to bask in its nature and culture.
My heart was full from the expanse of space and skies that were inseparable from the sights of sea, sand, and fishing boats. The food and flavours were refreshing to my palate, adding to my collection of tastes.
To get more Singaporeans to visit Batam, the Indonesian Tourism Ministry is offering super low-priced BatamFast ferry tickets starting from S$20 for a return trip from Singapore to Batam, or S$45 for a return trip + 1-night accommodation. The deal is valid for all non-Indonesian passport holders.
Beach hopping, climbing a tree house, and walking through a kampung might not sound like the makings of a luxurious vacation, but as we took chances with the weather and sea tides, uncertainty grew into excitement as we started living in the present and feeling alive.
Thank you Batam.
This post was brought to you by Wonderful Indonesia.